Football Comment: London clubs in three-way fight for Champions League

Trevor Steven
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WHILE Manchester United emerge as serious title challengers and Liverpool prepare for a huge week in the future of manager Brendan Rodgers an intriguing three-way fight is breaking out in London.

Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham look to me like they will slug it out for fourth place, while I expect Southampton to continue to slump and finish the season in mid-table.

Getting anywhere near the Champions League places would be extraordinary for the Hammers, but I sense this has the makings of a great campaign for Sam Allardyce’s team.

They might have had to settle for a draw at Sunderland on Saturday but they have pace and strength in attack, and more importantly they now have greater variety to their play.

Upton Park is one of those difficult grounds for opposing teams to visit, and that’s another reason I expect them to take a lot of points off the teams below them in the table.

Arsenal and Tottenham appear to getting back on track after shaky starts, but I don’t expect the Hammers to replicate Southampton’s slide down the division.

Liverpool’s top-four hopes have gone, and I see them among the next group, with Everton and Newcastle, but there are more immediate concerns looming for Rodgers.

I feel sorry for him in that he has not only lost his magic in Luis Suarez, but also the injured Daniel Sturridge, but he has had money to create a new team and has so far failed.

There is a shortage of options to replace Rodgers, but I wouldn’t like to guess where the team’s confidence will be – or what the owners will be thinking – if they suffer further setbacks on Wednesday against Bournemouth and next weekend at home to Arsenal.

I can’t see United failing to make the top four now, and they have to be considered realistic title challengers after a sixth straight league win. Boss Louis van Gaal will be delighted as it’s only December and they are sure to get even better as a host of new players return from injury and the team truly begins to blend.

Trevor Steven is a former England international who has played at two World Cups. He now works as a media commentator.